This Monday’s Poem of the Week is taking a pause to celebrate Labor Day, being replaced with the following thoughts.
This is Labor Day, so I would like to offer kudos to all my Readers who are currently holding jobs (including domestic) to which they give their best efforts, or who have retired honorably after years of doing their part in being productive members of our society.
Before I embarked on a medical career, I worked in many different jobs including lifeguard, ice cream truck driver, steel mill worker, electrician, gardener, inhalation therapist to name but a few. During this time, I developed a profound respect for how hard most people work in order to put food on the table for themselves and their families, how dangerous and how stressful some jobs can be, and how pride in your work can give meaning to tasks that some would regard as demeaning or of little value.
Sadly, I also watched a change take place in the nature of the relationship between worker and employer. Employees in most jobs, certainly in ones with large organizations, can no longer expect a guarantee of employment, the safety of benefits upon retirement, nor continued stability even within a given industry. The forces of a market driven economy and globalization have torn asunder the old contract of “as long as you do a good job, you’ll always have a place with our company, and we’ll take care of you upon your retirement.” I think most of us have been affected directly or indirectly by out-sourcing in the labor market, as well a continued closing down of many of our traditional industries as new factories continue to be built in countries with lower wages. Given our own demand for products at the lowest possible cost (what brand of watch are you wearing, what car are you driving, where was your shirt made?) this is a process that will continue to accelerate until higher standards of living drive up wages elsewhere at the same time lowering standards in our own country reduces our own ability to pay for these goods from abroad. Unfortunately, I see no cure for this Darwinian situation, except to attempt to be the best we can be in those areas where we still hold a competitive advantage, and to pay close attention to how markets are likely to impact our own future, working assiduously to develop skills that are not readily replaceable.
Having come myself to this country as an immigrant with immigrant parents, I was imbued with the idea that the one thing that cannot be taken away from you is your knowledge and education. And as long as you are willing to work hard to be in the upper percentile of whatever you do, you will have someone willing to pay you for your skills.
We must be willing to continually reinvest in ourselves, our own training and education, so that we may not only remain competitive in an increasingly challenging world, but also that we can maintain pride in doing the best possible work of which we are capable. For most of us, we are not able to accomplish our jobs except for the aid of others. I feel it’s vital that we recognize this dependence, and reward all those who help us not only in a monetary fashion (important as that is) but also by giving recognition and praise for their part in our success. Be well, and enjoy the holiday.